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Health Services at maximum capacity

Despite space limitations, both Andrews House, CAPS offices in JWW fully functional

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Andrews House, home to Health Services, is at maximum capacity, said Associate Director of Health and Wellness Lynn Dupont. The 1892 home currently holds 20 exam and treatment rooms, as well as office space for Health Services and Emergency Medical Services staff. Counseling and Psychological Services, another department within Health Services but housed in J. Walter Wilson, is also short on space.

“We’re at capacity,” Dupont said. “We’ve done the most that we can to the limitations of the building.”

The house, located at 13 Brown St., was built as a private residence and served as a temporary home for Rhode Island’s governor during World War I. The University acquired the building in 1922 and used it to house the Faculty Club until 1939, when it became the home for Health Services.        

The building has little room for expansion but is still “100 percent functional,” said Adam Pallant, clinical director. “It does feel like we’re getting to capacity, so there’s probably not a lot of leeway for growth as we need it — and that’s my greatest concern,” Pallant added.            

Associate Dean and Director of Student and Employee Accessibility Services Catherine Axe ’87 evaluated the accessibility of Andrews House in response to inquiries made by The Herald. “They’ve made it work in a fairly functional way, but I also think that they feel the limitations all the time,” Axe said. SEAS made several suggestions to improve accessibility, including making the self-registration structure more approachable for someone in a wheelchair.           

Regular renovations have kept Andrews House operational, including the addition of a larger, more accessible elevator last year. Before the installation, a renovated dumbwaiter shaft was used to move people between floors.      

Despite the limited space available, there are no immediate plans to relocate Health Services, Dupont said.   

Health Services has made the most of the space available, said Staff Physician Marsha Miller, who has worked at Health Services for 20 years. “We’re just running out of space to house all the staff that work out of our building,” she added.

Andrews “is a beautiful mansion that’s been retrofitted into a medical facility. There are things that have worked very well and things that have been very challenging,” Miller said. Facing a lack of space, members of the clinical staff are sometimes forced to share desks and office space. “We flex things around, so a nurse practitioner might be in one space one day, but then they move to another space because that’s the only office left,” she said. But it can be “very hard on people not to have their own place, to have their reference books, to have their stuff. They have to move around the building,” Miller added.

Despite Andrews House’s constraints, Pallant appreciates the charm of the building. Andrews House is “unique, and perhaps peculiar,” Pallant said.           

The space for CAPS in JWW is also at capacity. “We are at a point of being maxed out of space,” said Director of CAPS Will Meek. “Right now, we are about one whole office short of what we need, so that is definitely an issue.  Meek is working to “put Band-Aids on” the issue by being creative with space, though he does not view this as a long-term solution. Though CAPS is not currently limited by space constraints in the number of patients it can see or the staff it can hire, Meek believes that “in the near future, that could pose a significant problem.”

Meek does not necessarily see the separate location of CAPS as a disadvantage. “We’re two very distinct services. These offices come out of different historical traditions, emerged on campus at different times and have been separate offices for as long as they have existed at the University.”        

However, locating the two offices in the same building could be beneficial, Meek said. “When we think about treating the whole person, mental health and primary care and physical health care are part of the same umbrella in that collocating offices … makes sense.”

Space constraints in University buildings are not limited to Health Services, Axe said. This is “one of those things that has increased campus-wide as we’ve increased our enrollment,” she added.